In The Spotlight: Jill McGown’s A Perfect Match

>In The Spotlight: Walter Mosley's A Red DeathHello, All,

Welcome to another edition of In The Spotlight. Traditional-style crime novels place an emphasis on the ‘whodunit’ aspect of a crime (sometimes on the ‘howdunit’). And very often, they strike a balance, so that they are neither too violent and brutal, nor too ‘lightweight’ and unrealistic. Let’s take a look at an example of that sort of novel today, and turn the spotlight on Jill McGown’s A Perfect Match, the first in her Lloyd and Hill series.

DI David Lloyd and DS Judy Hill of Stansfield CID are alerted when the body of Julia Mitchell is discovered in Thorpe Wood near the town. She’s been strangled, and her clothes carefully removed. The police and medical examiner soon rule out rape or robbery, so the murder seems to be more personal.

The police try to trace the victim’s movements on the day of the murder, but almost immediately run into problems. For one thing, everyone they talk to indicates that Julia was last seen with Chris Wade. But Lloyd and Hill can’t interview him, because he’s gone missing. For another, several of the characters are not saying all that they know. So it takes quite a while to find out exactly what happened that night.

But what they can establish is that on the night of the murder, Julia was at the home of Martin and Elaine Short. Wade, who is Elaine’s brother, was there too. After an argument ensued, Julia decided to leave, and Wade insisted on taking her home. The next morning, her body was discovered. So it’s easy to see why Lloyd and Hill are so convinced at first that Wade is their man.

Things are more complex than that, though, as the police soon discover. For instance, there’s a complicated network of relationships to untangle. Julia was known to be the mistress of attorney Donald Mitchell. And Chris Wade was involved with Donald’s wife, Helen. There are other layers of complexity, too, and Lloyd and Hill have to slowly sort them out. That becomes even more important when, bit by bit, both come to believe that Chris Wade may not be the killer. In the end, the detectives find out who’s behind the murder, and that network plays an important role in what they learn.

This is a police procedural, so Lloyd and Hill find out the truth through police work, information from forensics and other reports, and a bit of luck. Since this book was published in 1983, readers also get the chance to see how police got information before the days of the Internet, mobile telephones, and computers.

One of the important ways in which Lloyd and Hill get to the truth is through interviews with the various people involved. This turns out to be important, because this is a traditional mystery. So it shouldn’t be surprising that there’s a cast of suspects, each of whom has something to hide, and each of whom could have a motive. Many of the characters lie for one reason or another, and part of Lloyd and Hill’s job is to uncover what really happened on the night of the murder. So they have to use their interviews to the best advantage they can, since several characters aren’t being honest about where they were and what they were doing at the time Julia Mitchell was killed. It’s also worth noting that some of the characters are not particularly likeable.

There are clues, too, as the story goes on. So readers who enjoy ‘matching wits’ with the author will want to pay close attention. The clues are not always obvious, but they are there.

The story is told from different points of view (in third person). So we learn a bit about both Lloyd and Hill. Lloyd is not married; Hill is, although not happily. In the course of the novel they begin a relationship. Neither is really sure where it’s going, but they don’t let their personal circumstances obsess them. And readers who dislike a lot of romance in their crime fiction will be pleased to know that this isn’t a romance novel. It’s a crime novel in which the two protagonists are also involved. I don’t like to draw too many comparisons, as each series is unique. But I think readers who are familiar with the way Deborah Crombie handles the relationship between her Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James will see a bit of similarity here.

This is a low-key traditional mystery. There’s not a lot of violence, and the pace reflects the sort of story it is. Readers who prefer fast-paced thrillers will notice this. That said, though, there are some twists and turns as we (and the police) learn who’s telling the truth, who’s lying, and about what. It’s also worth noting that this is not a long book. My edition worked out to 186 pages.

Readers who like all of the proverbial loose ends tied up will appreciate the fact that in this novel, we learn who is guilty and why. And I can say without spoiling the story that the police find out, too, and the handcuffs duly come out. That doesn’t necessarily make everything all right again, but we do get the sense that life will go on. Certainly it will for David Lloyd and Judy Hill.

Another element in this story is the occasional wit. For example, one person of interest is Paul Sklodowski. At first, the police think he may have had something to do with it, as his story about why he was in the area doesn’t really ring true. Then it turns out he’s trying to protect Diane McPherson, whom he was with at the time of the murder. They were using the field for some privacy, and it’s both funny and rueful as we hear their stories.
 

‘‘Don’t get her into trouble,’’ Paul pleaded.
‘You’re more likely to do that than I am,’ Lloyd said.’
 

The evidence from this young couple doesn’t solve the case, but it does add information. And it’s a light touch.

A Perfect Match is a low-key traditional mystery with a bit of wit that takes place in a small, but not tiny town. It introduces two police detectives who each bring their own skills to the case, and it sets the scene for later novels in the series. But what’s your view? Have you read A Perfect Match? If you have, what elements do you see in it?

 

 
 

Coming Up On In The Spotlight

 

Monday 15 March/Tuesday 16 March – Dissolution – C.J. Sansom

Monday 22 March/Tuesday 23 March – Shinju – Laura Joh Rowland

Monday 19 March/Tuesday 30 March – The Hot Rock – Donald Westlake

 

28 Comments

Filed under A Perfect Match, Jill McGown

28 responses to “In The Spotlight: Jill McGown’s A Perfect Match

  1. Ooh I loved this series when I read them years ago and last year I read this one again and still really enjoyed it – in fact I have the next one on the kindle to read. I really liked the way Lloyd and Hill complemented each other during the investigation and the way the winkled the truth out of those who were being evasive. A great pick for the spotlight Margot!

    • Thank you, Cleo. And I couldn’t agree more about the way Hill and Lloyd complement each other. Between they, they do get to the truth, and I enjoy seeing how they do it.

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed this one Margot – not sure about the nature asides but I though the plot and characters were very solid indeed.

  3. I’ve seen this series, but I’ve not read anything from it. I need to correct that. It sounds like an intriguing series. Always enjoy your spotlights, Margot.

  4. I also loved this series. Thanks for reminding me.

  5. This one’s been sitting on my Kindle for about a year now, I think from a mention from yourself in a previous blog post. Really will get to it one of these days! Great spotlight as always, Margot – and having just ploughed through a 600-page plus crime novel the idea of 186 pages is particularly appealing…

    • I can imagine, FictionFan. I feel the same way after I’ve spent time reading chunksters like that. The McGown series really is an appealing one, in my opinion, and mercifully free of angsty, self-pitying alcoholic demon-haunted detectives who can’t function. 😉 Thanks for the kind words!

  6. I read this long enough ago that I don’t remember much about it, but I ended up reading all the series in just a few months. I love this series. It is one of the few series I like that has this kind of working and personal relationship in it. Usually I get tired of that in a series.

  7. Col

    I will try one of them one day!

  8. Hey-ho, another series I am not familiar with and that you try to entice me with… Is there no end to your temptations? Also excited about your Shinju spotlight coming up soon – I’ve got a book by that author on my Kindle and have been eager to read it for some time now. You know me and my love of Japan!

    • Turnabout is fair play, Marina Sofia! 😉 And I’m looking forward to sharing Shinju, myself. I really do think it’ll appeal to your love of Japan – I really do!

  9. Margot, I like reading traditional mysteries with interviews of non-violent but dishonest suspects. In that sense, this has the atmosphere of a Christie, whose own suspects are usually loath to talking to Poirot.

  10. This looks like just my sort of read! Thanks for pointing a spotlight on it – I’ll check out our wee library and if it isn’t there I’ll bug them to bring it in. Nothing like these still too long nights to catch up on a good series. Thanks Margot – you’re a pip!

    • Oh, I hope you’ll enjoy this series if you try it, Jan. And I agree; there’s not much that beats a good book (and a beverage of choice) on a dark winter evening.

  11. Thanks for your review/posting. I can now add yet another author to my list, and I look forward to starting with the first in the series. Again, thanks! (You may have noticed that I have moved my blogging to Detectives on the Shelves. Y’all come, let’s have some coffee, and let’s chat about crime novels.)

  12. Postscript: Here is a related question for you and your legions of followers — Which are your favorite crime, detective, and mystery fiction blogs? (I ask because I do not want to overlook one or more of those that are worthwhile, so, I turn to others for help because, as Blanche DuBois famously said, “I’ve always relied upon the kindness of strangers.”)

  13. Great Spotlight Margot – I very much enjoyed this book, and have liked all the McGowns I have read. I am looking forward to reading more by her – so sad that she died quite young. I am always surprised that these books aren’t better known, as they are so good.

    • I’m surprised, too, Moira. They’re well-written, and not terribly difficult to find. It is sad that McGown died young, but I am glad we have her work to read. Glad you enjoyed the Spotlight!

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